Problems with Implementation Planning

A little bit ago I posted an article about how to avoid change management failures. (see: Today I want to talk more about the implementation and planning process so that you don't have failures.

This comes from an interview I did for a reporter.

1. Given your past working on organizational planning, how do you describe the difference between it and implementation planning? Additionally, what is the relationship among strategy, implementation, and execution?

Organizational planning is the structure of the organization. What work needs to be done? How does it related to the other work that needs to be done? Who is responsible for getting it done? How are the parts of the organization going to work together to accomplish shared objectives?

Implementation planning has to do with specific project and processes. For instance organization may have an HR department – that is organizational planning. Implementation is when the HR department  rolls out a new set of benefits or a new health care plan.

In order to successfully roll out a new product or process you should have a strategy as to how you plan to implement it and then – the execution is actually implementing it. So the strategy is the plan.

2. Why is implementation crucial to project success? What are the main benefits?

If you don’t implement your plan – you don’t get anything done. So – implementation is crucial. If you have the best plan in the world it’s totally irrelevant if you don’t put the plan into action.

3. What are your tips for implementation planning best practices, or for writing an implementation plan?

Make sure your plan is reality based. You need to know what problem you really should be solving so that you don’t end up solving proxy problems (problems you think are your problem but really aren’t – an example of this is praying for rain when your real problem is you need water on your field.

You need to know what is really going to impact your problem so that you don’t pray for rain which doesn’t affect anything.

And finally you need to know what you really need to do to get the work done. What resources do you need? Do you have the resources you need? Can you get the resources you need or not? If not- your plan won’t work.

4. How can software tools aid in implementation planning? Do you have experience using any tools, and how did they benefit your initiative?

To be honest – I’ve used programs of my own design to get work done – but I’ve never used it for planning purposes.

5. If you have any examples from your own career where implementation planning greatly improved your success, please also share!

When I was in acquisition and mergers we had to coordinate 5 departments into one acquisition process. We had people who had to work with the lawyers and hold the sellers hands. We had people looking at the financials. We had people looking to make sure we had title. We had people looking at the equipment to make sure it was working and we had our buyers.  We creating a software tracking system to allow us to coordinate and track each deal to make sure everyone was on the same page.  The process involved us getting together to narrow down our focus into what really mattered so we weren’t wasting time on tasks that didn’t. We then had to figure out how best to make sure each segment was able to track their unique work needs while integrating into the whole. And it had to be user friendly so that staff would actually populate the system with information.  We did organizational planning – moved on to process planning and then used that information to create a custom software system we could use that would work. Then we had to implement it and get staff using it. This last bit was tricky because departments have a tendency to hoard their information as information is power and we wanted them to share.  We did this through collective rewards – Even though there were 5 departments – we are were all on the same team and rewarded based on how many deals we closed and how good the deals were.

The best course you can take to help you with your planning processes is Reality Based Decision Making for Effective Strategy Development. It really will help you understand how to ask the right question so your strategy has the best chance of success.

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

A Humanistic Leadership perspective on Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace. Why is it important and why you should care about it as a manager.

1. What is emotional intelligence?

To me – this is about how you deal with other people as people. In order to get work done you probably have to work with another person. That person has their own stresses, desires, fears and hopes and insecurities. In order to work successfully with them, you have to manage their responses to your requests so that they are inclined to help you. Someone with good emotional intelligence understands this reality and knows how to deal with it effectively so that they can get the work they need to get done completed with as little stress on the people doing the work as possible.

2. How can it lead to bigger salaries?

People who are good at working with other people and getting other people to work with them tend to get more work done. They have good reputations since people like working with them. They also know how to ask for the salary they want and need without fainting or without being a jerk about it.

3. How can it lead to more job satisfaction?

The nice thing about being nice is that this skill is a connecting skill. People who work at seeing their co-workers as fully human worthy of respect – feel more connected and less conflicted. This leads to better feelings of job satisfaction. A lot of times people think taking other people into account in your planning is hard work. After all why should you go out of your way to make sure other people feel good. The answer is you do this for you. Not only will being nice help you slide through life better, you will feel better about yourself if you do it. When I give trainings on this topic I present a stressful situation and ask – if you respond to this stress by sharing your stress with others and getting angry – how do you feel?  Now – how about if you respond to your stress and the stress of others with compassion for yourself and others – how do you feel now? The answer is everyone feels better if they manage to respond to stress with compassion. It also yields better results. So double plus good.

4. What industries are EI most important in?

Any industry that requires you to interact with your fellow humans. But especially customer service as that is the field where you are most likely to deal with cranky people who are having trouble and really need someone to hold their hand.

5. Why does emotional intelligence matter?

Every single person on this planet requires the assistance of other people. The most effective way to get that assistance is to be nice to them. This requires us to not act selfishly but to instead consider our impact on the other person so we can tweak our behavior to maximize the positivity in the other person. This is what enlightened self interest is all about. Helping others to help yourself.

6. How can you measure your EI? Your employees?

You can track how often you get frustrated with others and respond negatively vs how often you respond to stress with compassion.  Over time, you will see an improvement in outcomes and relationships when you do this.  Most people tell me that they see an immediate improvement and this become self-reinforcing though it still requires conscious practice.

With employees – the more this is practiced the less interpersonal conflict you would expect to see. You would see more collaborative problem solving then butting of heads. This should also translate into less employee turnovers and complaints.

7. Other Thoughts? 

Emotional intelligence can be learned and practiced. It’s a mindset of valuing and respecting other people that sets this positive feedback loop in motion. This is why philosophic training is so helpful. The problem isn’t simply that a skill set is lacking. We have to understand why we should do this and more importantly – how to think about it so that we actually do this and reap the benefits from doing it.

The best course I have on this is my in depth program - Living Made Simpler. It is six hours long and will take you on a philosophy journey to help you better understand your own responses so that you can more effectively interact with the people around you.

Reporting Harassment

Part of the process to get unwanted behaviors like harassment to stop requires reporting. What do women need to do to properly report harassment in the workplace?

1. What steps can a women take to prove sexual harassment at work? 

The number 1 thing is to document all interactions that are inappropriate.

Date, time, location, any witnesses, any proof and a very specific description of what happened exactly. Not – I was harassed, but on this date at this time in this location he said this and put his hand on my shoulder. Don’t talk about how it made you feel – just what can be validated.

Harassment is a pattern of behavior so what you are trying to prove is a pattern of behavior. Don’t omit anything. Small snide remarks, go into the pattern. They aren’t worth mentioning on their own – but in the context of a pattern of behavior – they become important.

2) What steps should they take if they want to report it? 

Once you have documentation in place, you take a good look at the power structure. Are there any allies you can recruit higher up than the person harassing you?  Get the lined up. Report according to the proper channels. It is important to realize that this – won’t stop the harassment. You do this to set up the conditions to seek monetary damages if the employer fails to protect you.  You give them the opportunity to protect you – use the system they set up. Only after that fails, can you sue.

If your main goal is to get the harassment to stop, you need to retrain the harasser to make them stop. You can use reporting and documentation to do that – but that is separate and apart from the reporting process itself. Again – you have to view this as you helping your employer so that they can put pressure on the harasser to stop. But don’t be surprised if this fails or results in escalation of behavior or retaliation. The behavioral extinction process will play out and that means – there will be an escalation of behavior as that is predicted to occur. There are ways to plan and manage this and reporting is part of that – but not the only part.

3) What if it is a he said/she said situation? 

Document anyway. Every interaction. Make sure your response to these interactions deny the abuser their reward and report – every single incident. Once you start reporting – you have to report everything. Consistently. Over time. This is the only way to make it stop. Also, this will help the company understand just how prevalent something is. What you are doing is triggering the extinction process by denying the reward. You keep denying and reporting and the abuser escalates. You keep denying them the reward and eventually – they either stop or they blow out – spectacularly. Your goal as the victim is to get that to happen as quickly as possible so – relentless consistency in denial of reward and reporting to increase cost of behavior.  What normally happens is that as the abuser’s behavior worsens, it becomes easier for everyone else to see it more clearly. You just have to remain calm and professional and allow them to blow out.

4) Why do women, even high-ranking execs, tend not to report harassment

Because most of the stuff we encounter is not actually physically threatening we just deal with it. If we raised a fuss at every single thing that happened, we would be doing nothing but that. It’s only really worth it if the behavior is aggressive and dangerous. And even then – it’s easier to extract ourselves then to fight. But we need to because – abusers always have other victims and if we aren’t going to do this for ourselves, we need to do it so that there isn’t a next victim.

If you want to learn more about how to end harassment & retaliation in the workplace - take my online course or streaming video.

Change Management Failures

It seems like my entire career has been about managing change in some form or another.  I have been involved in several start ups and have transformed volunteer systems and business systems.

For instance, When I started at the LASPCA I inherited10 volunteers whose job was to spy on staff. In three years I grew the program to over 500 volunteers donating 20,000 hours a year in every department in our agency.

In business, I helped take an acquisition department doing 2 deals a month and helped turned it into a half billion dollar company completing 8 acquisitions a week because we changed our processes successfully. We used to get wannabee consultants come in – and when we asked them how many deals they could close – most said 2 a month. We were doing 8 a week – the average price of the deal was $250k. At one point I calculated that my team was generating $12k in new revenue for our company every hour.  I’m good at this.

I was recently approached by a reporter who wanted to know more about my experiences with change management Here are her questions and my answers.

1) What is the worst change management failure you have witnessed?

Every attempt to stop harassment in the workplace ever. Seriously – every major company does training and it doesn’t change anyone’s behavior. We are doing this on a national level. We have laws to do this. And … it has totally failed to create any meaningful behavioral change. We even doing online training now – still doesn’t work.  And yet – we still do the same thing over and over again – despite it not working.

Why do most attempts at change fail? Because the people leading the effort don’t understand the process of how behaviors are learned and more importantly unlearned. They plan for the best – roll out the new product or system and it’s not adopted.   There are several reasons for this.

First: Failure to understand the needs of the customers.  My father – Christopher Shaw, editor of the Sigplan Notices, once said – “design a system even a fool can use and only a fool will want to use it.” If the system doesn’t work right for the real people using the system no one will use it.  Failure to do your research and build a better system means failure. Before you even start – you need to make sure what you are asking people to do makes sense.  I have literally had people come to me to propose systems that don’t work. At all. Not even during the showcase. I have no idea what they were thinking, but … if your system doesn’t work better than my existing system and you don’t even know that your system doesn’t work – you are an idiot.  (*Sorry – pet peeve – I once had a team come in to pitch a GIS analysis system and the maps they showed me were brown. Like – a brown screen. Not a map – just – big brown rectangle with no distinguishing features – just – brown. I had to ask them to create differentiations between the layers just to see if what they were telling me their system could do, it could do. Not surprisingly – it couldn’t.)

Second: Failure to treat your humans as humans. This may come as a shock – but humans aren’t robots. You can’t just – reprogram them.  They have insecurities, prior knowledge base and most importantly habits. Habits are hard to break and we resist changing them unless we absolutely must. The reason people are still using XP is because the cost of changing is greater than the reward.  Microsoft had to stop supporting the software and people still didn’t change.  It doesn’t matter that 10 is a pretty cool operating system. People are only changing when their computers stop working.  In order to get people to adopt change you have to a) stop allowing the old thing to work and b) make the rewards for the new thing great enough to overcome the cost of doing things the old way.

Third: Repetition matters.  There is a saying in marketing and sales – you have to expose your customer to something 10 times before they even start to pay attention. The same is true with habit formation and change management is ALL about habit formation.  When you are helping people transition from one system to another – you have to provide repetition for people to learn what you want them to learn. Some examples of this. My sister works at a hitech firm out in LA. Large – 10,000+ employees. They changed their email system and for 3 months, the training department sent out reminder emails with information about what the new system could do and encouraged people to try out the new features. This repetition worked.  I am currently using Windows 10. I don’t browse in Edge though and every time I open up Chrome – Windows reminds me to try Edge. This repetition is a way to encourage me to use their system. It hasn’t worked yet – mostly because they disabled flash apps and there are things I can’t do in it. So – system failure.  A final example of repetition in tech adoptions. I have been playing Breathe of the Wild on Nintendo Switch. Whenever a screen change occurs we get “tips” about how to use the system better. How to fight bad guys better. Customers can’t be expected to remember all the whistles and bells put into a good system, so these built in reminders help. Eventually – I try out these things and add them into my repertoire of knowledge on how to use the system.

 2) What is a "low hanging fruit" / easy win that companies often miss in change management?

There are early adopters and laggers in any change management process. The low hanging fruit are the people with the least invested in the old system. People willing to try something new. These will give you the first chance to see how the system works in the real world with real people and give you feed back so you can tweak it and make it better for the next set of adopters. One of the mistakes companies make is they roll it out – hoping everyone will adopt it and don’t bother to do early testing with real people. Your low hanging fruit of early adopters are great beta testers and are usually kinder to you when the system needs tweaking.

Even with behavioral change – I roll it out in stages.

3) For tech leaders/executives, what is the most significant blindspot/misunderstanding of change management?

Humans aren’t robots. You can’t just reprogram us. We resist change. This doesn’t mean we are bad people or stupid. It just means we are instinctually programmed to resist change and there are number of behavioral reasons why change is hard for us. Understanding that resistance is a normal part of the process helps leaders view what is happening when staff resist as normal and not something to worry about. It’s something to work through. Plan for it. And if you don’t understand the science of why people resist change and what that looks like in real life – learn it.

4) What is an "early warning sign" that change management is likely to fail or produce poor results?

Arrogant managers who don’t bother to get input from various people to even know that what they are proposing is stupid. For people to adopt change  - the new way has to be significantly better than the old way and it has to solve a real problem that the old way has.  If you are too arrogant to find out you may be an idiot – you will set yourself up for failure. Good managers understand that they don’t know everything and seek out input so that their decisions are informed by real people and reality and not just their inflated ego.

Arrogant managers also fail to understand why resistance is happening. They tend to take the resistance personally – when that’s not what is happening at all. Humble managers understand that resistance is normal and something that has to be worked through. Arrogant managers throw their hands up – decide everyone else is an idiot and give up.

For me – the angrier and more arrogant a manager is about the change process – the more likely the change process is going to fail.

When I know for sure it’s going to fail is not from the “backlash” the change creates, but from how the managers are responding to that backlash. Again, the backlash is normal. Good managers and leaders help their teams work through it. Bad ones – get angry and give up. And that’s when I know it’s going to fail. Backlashes in behavioral science terms are called extinction bursts or blow outs. They are akin to an explosion. They can get really bad and really nasty. And all of this is normal. It’s part of the change process. It’s what change looks like – always. People who don’t understand that – fail.

If you want to learn more about change management from a behavioral perspective - take my course Why is Change So Hard which discusses how to get old behaviors to stop so that new behaviors can be adopted.

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